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Texas Criminal Law Updates

On May 27, 2019, the Texas Legislature closed the regular session and passed many bills that take effect starting this September. Although there are many bills making changes to the state criminal laws, there are several changes that apply to the people.

25 Texas criminal laws changes that affect the day-to-day practice of criminal law:

  1. HB 1325 – Texas lawmakers legalized the cultivation and production of hemp and other hemp-related products—such as CBD—that have less than 0.3 percent of THC, which causes the psychoactive high cannabis is known for. This law took effect on June 10.
  2. HB 2048 – This bill terminates the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP), which means individuals with unpaid surcharges as of September 1 will no longer be required to pay. In addition, those who have had their driver’s license suspended due to unpaid surcharges will have their suspensions lifted—without having to pay a reinstatement fee.
  3. HB 3582 – Deferred Adjudications is now available to first-time DWI offenders with a BAC below .15 percent, which could be non-disclosed upon dismissal or discharge. Qualified individuals must have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on all vehicles unless they obtain a waiver after completing an alcohol/drug evaluation.
  4. HB 1631 – Red light cameras are banned in Texas. This bill took effect on June 2.
  5. HB 1342 – This bill eliminates the grounds for disqualifying a professional license to due being convicted of a crime—not related to the licensed profession—within the past five years. Lawmakers wish to give individuals a better opportunity to gain employment after conviction.
  6. SB 21 – This bill increases the age to purchase tobacco to 21 years old unless the buyer is a service member of the U.S. military.
  7. HB 1760 – The age to have the right to seal records is lowered to 17 or after one year has passed from final discharge in juvenile cases.
  8. HB 37 – This bill creates a mail theft statute to make stealing mail (e.g. package, letter, or other sealed item delivered) before the addressee receives the item a crime—aimed at “porch pirates.” This law is also aimed at professional thieves who commit fraud or identity theft after stealing mail.
  9. HB 98 – This bill makes changes to Texas’ “revenge porn” statute, specifying that a person commits a criminal or civil offense when he/she intentionally share private images of another person without their consent.
  10. HB 2789 – Unlawfully transmitting sexually-explicit visual images is a Class C misdemeanor.
  11. SB 20 – Creates a new offense called, “online promotion of prostitution,” which is a third-degree felony.
  12. SB 20 – Creates a new offense called, “aggravated online promotion of prostitution,” which is a second-degree felony. The term “aggravated” refers to promoting or facilitating the prostitution services of at least five individuals.
  13. SB 194 – Creates a new offense called, “indecent assault,” which means touching someone in a sexual manner without the other person’s consent. This sex crime is a Class A misdemeanor.
  14. HB 8 – The statute of limitations doesn’t apply to sexual assault cases where DNA samples are collected and has yet to undergo forensic testing.
  15. HB 8 – Beginning in 2021, DNA samples from sexual assault cases must be tested within a 90-day period.
  16. HH 1399 – Defendants must take post-arrest DNA samples, rather than post-indictment DNA samples.
  17. HB 3106 – Sexual assault investigations must now be included in the FBI database called “Violent Criminal Apprehension.”
  18. SB 719 – The murder of a minor between ages 10 and 15 is considered a capital offense.
  19. HB 2758 – If a person is convicted of indecency with a child (under 14) by exposure, he/she is not eligible for probation.
  20. SB 2136 – This change allows the court to consider the “nature of the relationship” between the victim and defendant as evidence to understand what caused the alleged crime. In the past, this law only applied to domestic violence cases. Now, both parties of all criminal cases can submit such evidence.
  21. HB 121 – This law creates a new defense whenever a CHL carrier accidentally carries a handgun onto the property that doesn’t allow firearms, but quickly leaves after being notified of the rules.
  22. SB 346 – Revenue from court costs will now be sent to the indigent defense account, rather than law enforcement management, BAC testing, crime victim’s compensation, and retirement.
  23. HB 1279 – The term of imprisonment may be reduced by parole, rather than a sentence.
  24. HB 1343 – State prosecutors must file a protective order application on certain crimes following conviction or deferred adjudication.
  25. HB 2524 – Creates a presumption of theft of service—but doesn’t apply to housing rental agreements.

For more information about new laws in Texas, contact Smith & Vinson Law Firm today at (512) 359-3743 and request a free consultation.

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